Thursday, 24 October 2013

That noise you can hear is the penny dropping....

It has just come to my attention that the man who I thought was spoon-carver Martin Damen, is not Martin Damen at all, but Martin Hazell.

This is of course Martin Damen
Martin Damen 
Spoon and bowl carver from Banbury (where I was born, incidentally) and here some of his lovely wares


and this is Martin Hazell (recognisable by his trademark Viking sandals)
and this some of his very lovely spoons
Since Marttin Hazell lives a semi ascetic life he doesn't have much of an online presence so I couldn't actually find many pictures of his spoons, which is a shame as they are brilliant.
So how did I manage to get these two mixed up? Well, they are both greenwood carvers, and both called Martin. The clincher is that I first met Martin Hazell at Spoonfest #1 where he did a presentation about St Peter Damian (Damian easily mistaken for Damen), who he was promoting as the patron saint od spoon-carvers, and it was there that the seed of confusion was sewn.
Suffice it to say I have seen spoons carved by both of these Martins and they are equally very skilful and professional. The Martin that I met at The National Forest Wood Fair - Beacon Hill Country Park, Leicester that I blogged about previously was in fact Marti Hazell, nor Martin Damen as stated, and I have to say, if you get the chance to see his spoons, especially the tiny burl ladles that he sells on a thong as a necklace (which I wish I'd bought when I had the chance), you will love them.
I hope that clears it up some.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Scorp update

Just a quick update on my customized scorp. I carved my first spoon with it last week and, as promised, thought I'd report on how it worked.

Pros - I've never really used a scorp before, but I have to say, with the right tool (and I'm not convinced yet, for the reasons below, that this is the right tool) I think scorps are the future of spoon bowl carving. Why? it just seemed easier with a scorp, and not only easier, but safer. I'm quite pleased with the edge that I've managed to get on it, thought with regular stropping I anticipate it getting even better, so it carved through the wood (despite it being fairly seasoned) very well. There are no additional viciously pointy bits - like on a Frosts crook - or razor-sharp straight sections that end up cutting your thumb - like on my Robin Wood knife - and with it having a nice tight radius, it somehow just felt less 'threatening'.

Cons - If you look at the circumference profile of my scorp, you will notice it is eliptical rather than circular and that when you carve with it it is the point of the elipse, not the belly, which is doing the cutting. Not a huge problem, but the actual bit of blade in contact with the wood is quite narrow and at first had a tendency to cut deep, rather than shaving a nice wide section. If I were doing this again, I'd stick the blade in a bench vice before sharpening, and give it a gentle squeeze to make it more circular, hence broadening the main cutting surface. Hope that makes sense.

It does chatter a little, too, but then, so do both my other knives, so I'm not going to be too critical about that. All in all, for under a tenner, I'm really pleased.

A bit 'nibbley' maybe, but not a bad finish.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Fantastic Bowls

Having made my first carved bowl I've now got the bug and have been looking in to different ideas and designs. That's when I came across the work of David Fisher. His bowls are absolutely amazing and his website is inspirational. When I first saw his website I thought that he must be a professional bowl carver, but when I read more I discovered that he's a History teacher like me. I guess I've got no excuse. Check out his website here and enjoy this great video of the man at work.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Carved Bowl Finished

So I finally got around to finishing my first carved bowl and I'm kind of happy with it. It's not perfect, but I learned some lessons and the next one will be better. I'll definitely put more effort into the planning next time rather than just going at it free hand and I cant wait to try with some proper green wood.  This stuff was a bit spalted, which looks nice, but wasn't the easiest to work with.

What I really enjoyed was trying the different tools and experimenting with what works for each part of the bowl. To shape the outside I used a knife, a drawknife, a push knife, a spokeshave and a block plane. Unfortunately I didn't get to use my lovely Hans Karlsson dog leg gouge as the bowl was too small and the bottom was too tight for the sweep of the gouge. Oh well, next time.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Just beautiful spoons...

This is a cheap post as I'm just going to post pictures of someone else's work. But I make no appologies.

For a long time now Julian and I (and I'm sure hundreds of other spoon carvers) have been big fans of Jarrod Stonedahl work. I have been following his blog for a couple of years and was very excited when I discovered he was not only going to be attending the first (and subsequently second) Spoonfest, and was then equally gutted that I was unable to get on his workshop.
The white spoon is one of my favourites and if I could reproduce that I could die happy (sorry, a little hyperbole)
Any way, seeing his spoons at Spoonfest was a revelation to me. The ones he had for sale sold fast - Julian managed to get the last one and I know he has posted about it before - it's the spoon he eats breakfast with each morning. There is something about Jarrod's spoons which on a fundamental design and aesthetic level simply talks to me.They are delicate, perfectly preportioned and, well the only word I can think of is 'authentic'. Though I am sure they are his own design, there is something about them which to me is timeless and remeniscent, not so much of the Scandinavian spoons which are understandably very popular, but of Colonial American and Edwardian British - good, sensible, wooden spoons with a hint of decoration.

Not only that, but Jarrod often paints and then distresses his spoons, making them look ageless and antique - whether this is an intentional look or not I don't really know, all I know is I love them!

So, when I looked on his blog this week and saw the new spoons he has been making, I nearly swooned (ok, a little more hyperbole perhaps, but I just can't say how much I really admire these shapes). They are as well made as ever, but with one or two tiny little twists and embelishments which I haven't seen before. I just love the little 'horns', 'scrolls', call them what you will, that extend down from the handle to the top profile of the bowl. Not to mention the tiny, almost un-noticeable notches on the shoulders of the end of the spoon.

If you have not seen these spoons before, have a look and buy if you like. I know I for one will get one as soon as I can and will then be endlessly trying to copy his exquisit style. Check out his blog - so much more than spoon carving.

Thursday, 3 October 2013

All Made by Hand

Some great friends gave me this book for my last birthday. It's by James Arnold who also wrote the Shell Book of Country Crafts, which Richard mentions in one of his previous posts. It's illustrated by the author with some lovely drawings including one of a pole lathe turner and a spoon carvers tools.

 The author has obviously paid close attention to the craftsmen he observed and their tools. I particularly like the 'hooking knives' with their different sweeps. What I find slightly puzzling are the dividers that are included with the spoon carvers tools. In the text he mentions that the turners would often carve spoons and ladles as well, so maybe he has confused a tool that he would use for turning for  a spoon carving tool. Any other suggestions? Maybe it was used for marking out curves or measuring thickness, but I doubt it. Does any one do something similar? Comments welcome.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Magnus Sundelin Chip Carving Knife

Earlier in the year I mentioned a new knife I had acquired in a trade for a bowl. It is a lovely little detail knife by Magnus Sundelin. I've used it several times now to engrave my initials into my work and recently had a go at doing some carved decoration in a spoon. To be honest I was a bit disappointed when it first arrived. Where the blade meets the handle there is a hole that I would have expected to have been filled with epoxy. The grind on the blade is also a bit uneven.

Maybe I'm being too picky though, with a full size blade I think the hole in the handle could allow the blade to move, but with the fine work you do with this kind of knife, it probably won't make a difference. The grind doesn't seem to matter either as you only use the first 5mm or so of the blade. So in practice it works really well, it's very sharp and the fine angle of the blade make it glide through the wood. It's similar to using the tip of my Frosts 106, but much better balanced. So this is my knife of choice for engraving now, I haven't tried it for chip carving yet, but I'll give it a go when I get around to it. Now I just need to practice a lot more.

You can get the knife from here.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

More miserly penny-pinching

I'm not naturally a miser - I love spending money, I just don't have a lot of it, what with responsibilities like house, mortgage, running a car, and then there's the four kids and the daily expenditure that goes along with that (though I don't begrudge or regret a penny of it). And you don't need me to tell you there's some kind of world wide recession going on and that just like our extremely sincere and trustworthy polititians have said, we're all in it together.So, in my efforts to demonstrate austerity, I sometimes have to resort to a bit of DIY.

It was about 25 years ago that I attended a museum exhibition in Manchester about the history of slavery, and whilst I found the whole thing eye-opening and very sobering, one of the things that really struck me was a collection of hand-made knives, mostly over-sized folders and balisong type affairs, all made very crudely from lengths of steel, some from steel rules and old saw blades. And while they were very basic and crudely made, out of necessity and their makers having to work with whatever was to hand, they were functioning and fit for purpose. I had always loved knives and it suddenly struck me that it was possible to make my own; that like the knives in the exhibition, they didn't have to have professional finishes or be polished within an inch of their lives, they just needed to be sharp and strong.

This was the beginning of a much later flirt with knife making and the origin of my attitude toward most things, including brick-laying, roofing, electrics, plumming and most other aspects of DIY, whereby I will look at something and say' "I think I could do that' and then give it a go. I remember when we decided our kitchen needed extending and although I had never laid a brick before, placed a roof tile, worked with RSJs or fitted a double-glazed window, I figured it must be common sense and if I took each bit a steep at a time, it probably couldn't go far wrong, and if it did, well then I could pay a professional to do it.

Anyway, I digress terribly. With my interest in crafts and green woodworking I often feel caught between the rock and a hard place which is the obsession with new and expensive kit and not having a lot of money to spend. I watched the video that Julian posted by Peter Galbert, whose blog I have followed for some time (though posts have been few and far between) and thought how much I would love to go on a chairmaking course and then collect together all the tools that would enable my success. But add it up, folks - specialist draw knives, inshaves, travishers, adzes, tennon cutters, etc, etc - it adds up to a fortune and for someone like me with only a casual interest (casual because time doesn't really allow for a serious foray into these crafts) it's just too much money.

So what's my point? Simple. I have been at a number of spoon carving events and seen at various times other carvers using a scorp - a sharpened ring of metal fixed to a handle for carving the bowl of a spoon.

I couldn't find a picture of someone using one for spoon carving, but it's essentially the same thing.

Do I need a scorp? Of course I don't. I have two perfectly good spoon knives, which is one more than I can use at any one time. But what has 'need' ever had to do with the aquisition of tools?

Having had a little go recently with Martin Damen's scorp, a tool with which he achieves some amazing results, I thought I should perhaps hace a go at making my own - or more accurately, at adapting a tool I bought from ebay some time ago. It looks (or should I say looked) like this when I first bought it.
It was listed as a farrier's loop, they still have them on there now, for trimming horse, sheep, pig and goat hooves. It cost me £8. When it came I realized it was no good for spoons due to the long neck and angle of the head. It might be ok for bowls, but it needed regrinding to put the grind on the outside, rather than the inside - at least that's what I figured from what I'd seen of other carving tools and my own experience with an adze that had an internal grind. So I put it away in the shed and forgot about it. Until this weekend.

So, I removed the head from the handle, started to grind the existing edge flat, then figured, why not just sharpen the outside of the other side of the ring. I also hammered on the neck to straighten it out, which would have worked much better if I'd heated it first, but I didn't have the time for that.

I was very pleased with the work I did on the grind - it is razor sharp.
I showed it to Ju and he pointed out that it was probably too thick and would foul my work and chatter when used for carving, so this morning I ground off the back of the head. And here is my finished article.

I've had a quick go with a bit of scrap wood and it carves fine. I suspect I may have made the neck too short now and if this turns out to be the case when I actually try carving a spoon, then I will re-handle it in order to expose a little more. Either way, in the tradition of those knives I saw in Manchester, it is sharp, practical and fit for purpose, and for £8 and a little time grinding, I'm happier than if I'd spent £50 plus on a Two Cherries scorp. I'll try it out this weekend and let you know how I get on.